Brooklyn Stabbing Suspect Had Troubled Past

By Colleen Long
|  Monday, Feb 14, 2011  |  Updated 6:30 PM EDT
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Brooklyn Stabbing Suspect Had Troubled Past

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Maksim Gelman, of Brooklyn, who is accused of going on a 28-hour stabbing rampage through New York City, center, is put into a car by officers outside the 61st Precinct in the Brooklyn borough of New York Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/David Karp)

The man accused in a bloody stabbing rampage that left four dead and four wounded across the city had a criminal history of minor drug arrests, writing graffiti and once threatened an acquaintance, but the case was dropped.

Maksim Gelman never spent time in prison. There were no recorded incidents of serious violence. Until the day his 56-year-old stepfather was hacked to death at the start of a violent killing spree, police had never been called to the home he shared with his family, according to arrest records obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

But there were signs that Gelman was troubled. He told police after his arrest someone "had to die." Friends of one of the victims say he was obsessed with the young woman he is accused of killing.

Authorities are still investigating the reason behind the attacks, but they say the 23-year-old became unhinged during an early-morning argument Friday over keys to his mom's Lexus, and then stabbed his stepfather to death. He sped away and committed attacks — both targeted and random — for the next 28 hours, authorities said, until he was captured on a subway underneath Manhattan's Times Square.

One of the victims, 20-year-old Yelena Bulchenko, may have been at the center of the crime spree, investigators said. Her mother, 56-year-old Anna Bulchenko, also was killed.

Yelena was initially described by authorities as Gelman's ex-girlfriend, but her friends and her boyfriend of two years, Gerard Honig, said she and Gelman were acquaintances who had never dated.

They also said Gelman was obsessed with her.

"She said he was creepy, he would try to harass her, to stalk her. But she was never with him, never tried to be with him, nothing," said Honig, who was living with the Bulchenkos and was at work when his girlfriend was killed.

"She was a beautiful girl, she only wanted the best for this world," Honig said. "She loved me and I loved her. We planned to have a family together."

Gelman is accused of driving his family's Lexus to the Bulchenko home nearby, and stabbing Anna to death. When Yelena arrived home at about 4 p.m., she found her mother's body in a pool of blood and called 911. But Gelman was waiting for her there, chased her outside and stabbed her 11 times, authorities said.

During his arrest, Gelman made some incoherent statements to police, including "she had to die," but it's unclear to whom he was referring, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

A longtime friend of Yelena, Angela Akopyan, said the first time she heard of Gelman was Friday.

The suspect was arraigned Sunday evening on charges of second-degree murder and assault and was being held without bail. His attorney was appointed Monday, and said he had no comment on the case yet because he had not properly interviewed his client.

As he was lead out of the police precinct Sunday, Gelman cursed and yelled at a small throng of neighbors outside, saying "it was a setup." No family members attended the hearing.

The Ukraine-born Gelman and his mother became naturalized U.S. citizens about five years ago. He lived with his family in a predominantly Eastern European section of Brooklyn.

He had seven prior arrests dating to 2003 and an open case that was set for dismissal in March, before he became a suspect in the weekend rampage. He has been arrested for graffiti, minor drug possession and criminal mischief. Some of his cases were sealed because he was a minor, or the charges were dropped or dismissed.

A 2008 harassment complaint that Gelman threatened to kill a 21-year-old man was among those sealed, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the case was sealed.

After the stabbings, police say Gelman drove away and rear-ended a Pontiac, then stabbed the driver when he confronted Gelman, police said. He survived.

Gelman left the man bleeding on the street and drove off in his Pontiac but smacked into 62-year-old pedestrian Stephen Tanenbaum, who died from his injuries, police said.

He later abandoned the car and disappeared until just before 1 a.m. Saturday when police say he hailed a livery cab and attacked the driver, then fled. Shortly afterward, he approached another car and stabbed a man inside multiple times in the hand before hijacking the car, police said. Both men survived.

Just after 8 a.m. Saturday, passengers on a subway in Manhattan noticed that a man on the train matched photos of Gelman they had seen in newspapers. They notified police as Gelman jumped off the train at the West 34th Street station, crossed the tracks and hopped on another train, where he sliced a passenger, police said.

Officers were in the driver's compartment of the train looking for him on the tracks when he made his way up to the driver's door and pounded on it, "claiming that he was the police," Kelly said.

One of the officers threw open the door and wrestled Gelman to the ground, knocking the knife from his hand, Kelly said.

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